Dads were foes in '97 WS, now sons face off

June 6th, 2021

Saturday night’s NCAA Tournament Regional matchup between Georgia Tech and Vanderbilt was not only a meeting between two programs vying for the opportunity to go to Omaha, it was a faceoff between two of baseball’s multigenerational families.

Jack Leiter, MLB Pipeline’s No. 3 Draft prospect and son of Al Leiter, dueled Marquis Grissom Jr., son of Marquis Grissom, in a battle that will remind fans of many faceoffs between their fathers from the 90’s.

Leiter, who was been projected as a top-five pick in the 2021 Draft all season, dominated Georgia Tech hitters all evening. The ace right-hander posted six strong innings in Vanderbilt's 4-3 victory, striking out 11 while allowing one run on three hits with two walks. His only blemish came in the fourth, when he allowed a solo homer to Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada. Leiter’s ERA sits at 2.18 following his start and he improved his record to 9-3.

Grissom Jr. went 4 1/3 innings, allowing four runs, all unearned, on two hits, three walks and two strikeouts. The right-handed freshman started the game with three scoreless innings but allowed two runs in each of the fourth and fifth innings before getting pulled. He lowered his ERA to 4.89 and took the loss.

This was the first time Leiter and Grissom Jr. squared off, but their fathers participated in many battles against each other from 1996 to 2004. Grissom has the regular season leg-up on Leiter, going 13-for-36 in his career off the lefty, good for a slash line of .361/.361/.528 and an OPS of .889.

The two met in the 1997 World Series between the Indians and Marlins, where Leiter held the upper hand. Grissom, who only spent one year in Cleveland, propelled the Indians to the World Series with his ALCS MVP performance. Leiter made two starts in the series and faced Grissom five times, resulting in a single, a double play, a strikeout and two walks. The Marlins won the series on Edgar Renteria’s legendary Game 7 walk-off single.

Grissom’s only career homer off Leiter came on May 15, 2003, in a matchup between the outfielder’s Giants and the hurler’s Mets. In the bottom of the fifth, Grissom drove a ball the opposite way for a three-run shot.

Both Grissom and Leiter remain involved in the world of baseball. Grissom has had an active role in MLB’s youth development events: The Breakthrough Series, the Dream Series and numerous Play Ball events. Grissom even helped coach Grissom Jr. at the 2018 Dream Series, along with many other former big leaguers who staff the youth development events.

Since his retirement, Leiter has worked in both broadcast media and in a Major League front office. From 2006 to 2018, Leiter worked for YES Network as a color commentator, and was hired by MLB Network in 2009 as a studio analyst. In 2019, Leiter began a role as a baseball operations advisor for the Mets, with a focus on player development for pitchers at all levels in New York’s system.

Coincidentally, the man in the broadcast booth for the regional matchup also held a connection to the elder Grissom. Greg Swindell, a 17-year big league veteran and the No. 2 overall pick in the 1986 Draft, was one of Grissom’s favorite pitchers to match up against. Grissom went 12-for-29 in his career off of Swindell, with five homers, the most the outfielder hit against any pitcher in his career.